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Good Customer Service Deserves Praise

One summer in highschool, I schlepped bagels at Bagelworks, a sandwich chain in Toronto. It was a fun summer, but one memory in particular stands out. At the tail end of a particularly busy lunch hour, an older woman I had served about half an hour earlier came up to me and asked to speak with my manager. In the service industry, that's rarely a good sign, but I was pretty sure I had been friendly and prompt with her meal. When my manager came out, I was floored to hear the woman tell my manager that she had received stellar service from me, and that because of the way I greeted her, chatted with her while I made her sandwich, and wished her a good day as she paid, her experience at Bagelworks that day was the best it had ever been.

I took this lesson to heart, and believe that praise can spur people and companys to provide even better customer service than they already do.

Often, the blogosphere is criticized as being a place to rant and rave about products or companies that provide a poor customer experience. I've certainly been guilty of this on multiple occasions, but in light of Seth Godin's and Jeremy Zawodny's stories about poor banking experiences, I want to share a story about a phenomenal bank that I've had accounts with for two or three years: ING Direct.

But first, some context. ING is an FDIC-insured, internet-only bank that is the perfect place to stash rainy-day cash. You link it to your bricks-and-morter bank account and transfer money back and forth through ING's easy-to-use web interface. They don't have ATM's, so you generally have to wait a two or three days once you transfer money to your B&M; bank before the money is accessible. The best feature they have is the ability to set up recurring deposits to your ING account, which is a great way to pay yourself first. You can forget about your ING account for a couple of months, and when you check back, you've got more money than you thought you did. They keep their overhead low by pushing transactions to their website, but they have a phone number that's answered by real, live humans. Call too much, though, and ING will actually fire you for being a bad customer. Their interest rates actually return real money--their plain old savings account returns 3.3% right now, and their one-year CD returns 4.15%.

ING's mortgages are hassle-free--they approve you right on the phone, and they guarantee your closing costs. I recently refinanced my condo, and because ING couldn't get their act together, there was a two-month delay in closing. This meant the interest rate on my loan jumped 0.5%. So when I got back from overseas, I called, explained the situation, and asked them to restore the loan to its original interest rate. 30 minutes later, I got a call back, and they agreed to lower my loan's rate to the originally quoted rate.

There was no negotiation, and no requirement for me to escalate to a manager's manager's manager to get approval. The whole experience probably took five minutes of my time, and it really underscored the essence of providing a good customer experience--people are willing to tolerate mistakes, if the mistake is rectified satisfactorily. In this case, ING made me happy that I was a customer of a bank that was willing to do the right thing. Even though it might cost them in the short term, as a long-term strategy, this was the right thing to do. After all, how often do you hear people raving about their bank?

ING relies on word-of-mouth to acquire new customers, and provide $25 to the new customer and $10 to the referrer. If you're interested in socking away some cash with a bank that cares about its customers and does the right thing, drop me a line [reemer -at- gmail] and I'll send you a referral email.

If you've had a particularly good experience with a company, I'd love to hear your story. And if you've received great customer service at a brick-and-morter store, I encourage you to express your happiness to the store's manager. That woman made my day back in highschool, and maybe you'll make somebody else's day and guarantee a good experience for the next customer that walks through the store's door.

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Comments (Post | Latest)

1. Andrew said on Aug 28 2005:

Can you link it to any bank worldwide or only Canadian / American accounts?

2. kareem said on Aug 28 2005:

i believe only US banks. ING has a canadian site that (i'm guessing here) links to .ca banks. although they're a dutch company, so a given might be able to link to a bank in country .xxx.


Hi, I'm Kareem Mayan. I co-founded eduFire, an online video tutoring company.

I've done time at ESPN and FIM.

I advise WorldBlu, helping them build democratic companies.

I moderated a council for Creative Good.

And, I helped bring Barcamp, a technology un-conference, to LA, which is where I live. I am now living and working in cool cities around the world.

More about me.

Opinions stated here are mine alone.

Contact: blog -at- reemer


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